tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC May 16, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EDT
get a fertilizer that can't be copied. get the scotts advantage. to kill dandelions, get turf builder with plus 2 weed control. >> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> i can hear you. >> the time for change has come. >> did president obama go with the not too hot, not too cold supreme court choice? are liberals correct in suspects the justice kagan would be just right as a consensus builder but a but too cool when if comes to fighting conservatives? don't ask, kagan moved to bar military recruiters at harvard. because of discrimination againss. gay will republicans make that her achilles' heel? in senate hearings? and finally, the border divide. politicians are torn between the latinos they need to win
future elections and the two thirds of voters who say it's time to crack down. i'm norah o'donnell. chris is off this week. welcome to the show. katty kay covers washington for the british broadcasting corporation. pete williams is justice correspondent for nbc news. joan biskupic covers the supreme court for "usa today" and is the author of "american original," about justice antonin scalia and andrew sullivan is senior editor of the atlantic. first up, president obama is known for consensus building and his most recent big decision, elena kagan for the supreme court, may be driven by his signature search for consensus. at least that's what many lebrals say they see in the kagan pick. they wanted someone just as strong as john paul stevens, the justice who's retiring. so when he sbuchede his choice, president -- introduced his choice, president obama made it clear he knows the left wants another john patrick paul stevens. >> while we can't presume to replace justice stevens'
experience, i selected a nominee who embodies that same excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law. and who can ultimately provide that same kind of leadership on the court. our solicitor general and my friend, elena kagan. norah: will it fill the shoes of justice stevens? >> not particularly. it seems unlikely someone would come in based on what we know about elena kagan as the liberal. they -- there were other nominees he could have selected, perhaps diane wood from chicago. but there's a will the about elena kagan we don't know. she's never had to express herself on some of these hot button issues like the death penalty. she said very simply that she supports it. abortion. some. big questions that i'm sure she' a getllsked about during her confirmation hearings. she has a blank slate. norah: why did the president choose elena kagan? >> she offers a lot, in
addition to not having a heavy duty paper trail and it makes it easier to get confirmed but she has been the government's top lawyer before the supreme court, solicitor general, harvard law dean and someone who exudes competence and he liked her story and what she was all about. he's worked with her. when you're in the administration, she's been dealing with his lawyers, trying to work out difficult issues, such as the guantanamo detainees rights. and so he saw her first happened that way. -- first hand that way. and she embodies not just the consensus building we were talking about but also someone who will not take away any political capital in the next couple of weeks. >> and perish the thought. he thinks that she's smart and would make a good judge. >> but katty, liberals are worried that she may not sh the real counterweight to this -- be the real counterweight to this conservative bloc on the court. can elena kagan be that person? >> i think some liberals are worried they will be suitered tdhey will have a -- soutered that they will have a justice comes in the guise of being a liberal but turns out
to be more conservative. and there isn't that much of a paper trail so we're not quite clear about what her position is on very many issues, in fact. she's kept a very guarded sense on that. but it's true that if you look at the court now there's not a liberal in the vein of thurgood marshall or a great economic populist on the court. and one thing we do know about elena kagan, suggests that she is not going to be that real liberal figure. norah: and andrew, the president is known as sort of a consensus builder. and what we read about kagan that she's very skilled perhaps at persuasion. and the president may hope that she may have -- bring the swing justice, justice kennedy into her camp. can she do that? >> i don't know, norah. i hope she can. i hope that everything the president says about her is true. and that she's going to be a great justice. but i have to say the conservatives have a point. the blank slate works both ways. she may well be much more liberal than anybody currently believes.
and my worry about this, and the optics of this, and the politics of this, is that if you believe that the supreme court is a way in which liberal elites impose their values upon you, if that's where you're coming from, and this person who's a friend of the president and is part of the ivy league group, and i nearly said cabal, but the corridor, and you feel -- i'm talking about the perception. not the reality here. and you feel that you not being spoken to frankly and onestly in this process and don't know everything on the table, then there could be a big backlash. especially in today's populist environment. >> if you look at the court at the moment, it's clearly the conservatives that have the predominance when it comes to leadership. and i think the real question about elena kagan from a liberal's point of view, is she going to be the counterweight to scalia? will she be the person that's the lion in in a respect who can lead that group? >> i think it's possible she is. >> and much more of a strong conservative base. conservative leadership on the court at the moment. >> obama is supported by
citizens united, the radical moves it the right on the court. i think obama will have picked a real lefty. and i think he's hiding that. and i worry about the political consequences of hiding such a thing. given -- norah: what's going to happen? first of all, as a junior justice, there's only so much she can do. one vote. >> initially. and in terms of the scalia dynamic, they're both new yorkers and both go toe-to-toe and done it with her at the podium before him. in terms of persuading anthony kennedy, i agree with andrew. he's his own person and you can't come in and all of a sudden move over this vote if he's not inclined to anyway. but it will play out. she's only 50 years old. john paul stevens is 90. >> and also naive to think anyone will come on the court and change it. it will take her a while to figure out where the restroom is. norah: and let me ask about another hot button issue in the senate hearings. and that is the issue of elena kagan trying to bar military
recruiters from harvard law school because of the don't ask, don't tell policy. andrew, do you think this is going to be a huge issue in the hearings? >> i think it probably will. and i'm worried that it will be code for other issues. that the right wants to use against her. i don't think she has anything to apologize for. i think she was well in the mainstream of all deans of law schools at the time. i know the military recruitment continued. i happen to disagree with her position actually. i think that they should have been able to recruit at all times. the military of this country is too important. i think our job in getting them to change this monthlycy should be done without these -- policy should be done without these sanctions and actions. but i think it will be a big issue. because it's all they got and just hope it's the only issue. norah: senator kyl said she put her gay rights agenda above u.s. law. is gay rights going to take center stage at this hearing? >> i think there's a risk if this becomes code for her views on this issue. and it doesn't get -- and
there's concern among some conservatives that they don't want to be in a position of bashing her on gay rights issues and don't want fob seen as the -- to be seen as the party that bashes gay rights. >> it's going to be important for another reason. gay rights is going to come up because we have a number of cases in the federal courts working their way up to the supreme court now challenging in california the ban on gay marriage, in massachusetts, the federal doma law. so senators will ask for her views, if it's like any other supreme court kermings and she'll say i can't answer that because i may have to decide that question. >> and what she was doing at harvard because she was harvard law dean she was central to this. but she was not a leader-leader on this. she came int l itoate in the process. her preorcess dean at harvard had already taken this position. many other leaders throughout the country on campuses had already been there. and she doesn't own it the way -- they can only do so much with it, i believe. >> my view is she's going to have a lifetime appointment. and she's going to be making decisions in that court that's
going to affect nigh life, my family and the lives of millions of other gay people in this country. i would like us to have an honest discussion about what her views are about the constitutional right to marry. i think we should have -- i'm tired of these hearings where no one says anything and it's all some kabuki dance and in which everyone is talking in code and walking around each other. >> get ready for another one. >> why should people sit there and have their future determined without having a say in it? why shouldn't we have this discussion? >> it's more of a political exercise than a legal exercise and everybody is up there, the senators are trying to get the administration's nominee confirmed. and the democrats, no incentive to turn it into somethi -- >> part of the criticism has been perhaps that she's too programmed. we saw this high school photo of her in robes and a gavel. she's wanted to be a supreme court judge all her life. is she too programmed, too strategic in her thinking? >> well, nobody gets on the
supreme court with a -- without a lot of that frankly. and with her more obvious and criticism that s s washeo ambitious and focused. but face it. the panel is filled with people like that. >> and isn't it time we ask for something better? and assuming all this stuff is just politics? can't we have a discussion about what she believes and what she will do to the future of this country? don't we have a right? >> she have to show herself more human and more of a life story and bring in her father and -- >> and ask about her private life. >> who was her father? norah: let's talk about her life story. elena kagan would be the third woman on the court. and some have lamented that neither kagan nor sonya sotomayor have children. does that matter? >> this has come up as an issue. and i read it in several places and i've heard it from other people that it would have been nice if the president had appointed a mother because that would have made her more representative of ordinary american women who have
children and have family concerns. and that's one thing that he said he wanted. he wanted somebody who understood the lives of ordinary americans. and most american women at that age are having children. the majority do. and i think it's an interesting reflection of the fact that if you are going to be a top judge in this country as a woman, the chances are it's going to be very difficult to have a family as well. and that's the reality in -- and we're still at that reality. i nd that more unfortunate really from the fact that she doesn't represent ordinary americans. >> i think that's an outrageous invasion of her private life. norah: it is relevant. >> now dare you talk about her children? norah: as a bottom line we put it to the matthews meter. 12 of our regulars, would you expect justice kagan to be more of a consensus builder in the middle or a fighter on the left? 10 say consensus builder. just two think she might be a fighter on the left. katty and and andrew, katty, a 10, and andrew, you're one of the two. you say consensus builder. >> just because i'm looking at her record and what i hear from
people at harvard andshhat e did at harvard and had this habblet to bring people together from -- and had this ability to bring people together from different sides of the spectrum. >> she has what is called progressive personalesalu v and her background and interests, show that she is probably quite more liberal than they're letting on. norah: bottom line, would you say that elena kagan will be a standout in president obama's legacy or a mere footnote? >> i think she has a chance of being a standout. a chance of doing that. >> in terms of his presidency, yes. this will stand out. third woman on the supreme court. norah: joan. >> ditto. he will be here eight years tops and she will be here for maybe four decades. norah: andrew. >> i have no idea. norah: on that note, before we break, elena kagan would make the fourth new yorker on the court. and president obama took note. >> the appreciation for diverse views may also come in handy as a diehard mets fan serving alongside her new colleague,
yankees fan,tius jce sotomayor who i believe has ordered a pinstripe robe for the occasion. [laughter] norah: if kagan gets confirmed, having four justices from new york city would be a first. kagan from manhattan, sotomayor is from the bronx. antonin scalia is a queens guy and a big yankees fan and ruth bader ginsburg is from brooklyn. but as far as we could find out, she's more of an opera buff than a baseball fan. now, as for chief justice john roberts, he's no new yorker. but he was talking baseball five years ago at his confirmation hearings. he famously pledged to beus an ump. -- pledged to be just an ump. >> it's my job to call balls and strikes and not pitch or bat. norah: ever since then democrats have been calling roberts out on his pledge not to be a player. here was dick durbin at the time of the sotomayor confirmation. >> when chief justice roberts came before this committee in 2005, he famously said as
supreme court justice is like an umpire, calling balls and strikes. we have observed unfortunately that it's a little hard to see home plate from right field. norah: wow. so now the democrats hope elena kagan and sonya sotomayor will do more than compare uniforms, organize the libs against the roberts squad. and they hope kagan will knock some heads. but maybe not quite like this scene from "the untouchables." >> a man stands alone at a place, thrs the time for what -- this is the time for what? individual achievement. there he stands alone. but in the field, what? part of a team. >> teamwork. teamwork. >> looks, throws, catches, hustles, part of one big team.
teams don't field, what is he? no one. i get nowhere unless the team winls. >> team >> team. >> team. norah: ouch. when we come back, why is arizona's tough immigration law embraced by two thirds of americans? and will those politics push washington further toward a hard-line? but scoops and predictions right out of the notebooks of these top reporters. we'll be right back.
police can demand proof of citizenship based on suspicion someone could be illegal. well, now we have some polls. and the new nbc-"wall street journal" survey, a surprising 69% of whites in the country say they support arizona's law. those numbers may explain why arizona's republican governor thinks it's a potent political issue. >> and we all know what happens in arizona when you don't have i.d. adios amigos. norah: the politics of this are tough. both political parties know they need court hispanic voters. and yet now we have two thirds of white voters say they
support this law. >> right. and it's very interesting because in the nbc poll as i understand it, people were actually read the contents of the law. so there was no issue about we support this in principle. and they understood what the law did and still supported it. interestingly, the same number of hispanics oppose this law. and that's the number that republicans really need to watch. because this may well play well in these mid-term elections and it may well play well in primary elections. where they are banking on a high percentage of whites turning tout vote. but when you get to 2012 and look at the longer term demographics of this country hispanics are on the rise. minorities are on the rise. and theotre n going to like this law and the republicans are pushing hispanics further into democratic hands. there's no doubt about that. norah: the president was critical of this. arizona law. he once again talked about immigration reform. but congress won't touch it. why? >> it's an election year for starters. so don't expect to see anything like this in an election year. and secondly they can't get an agreement on what it should be. there's this argument about enforcement versus some way to allow people to become citizens more easily.
>> this border is not secured. it is the federal government's job to secure the borders of this country. this is not a racist question. this is a question which is totally legitimate to ask. and the federal government sitting around playing these political games, seems to me to be -- it was very effective ad. look, the federal government should police borders if it has no other powers whatsoever. a very basic demand of your government. so i don't agree with in law. i don't like the idea of people being asked on the streets for their papers. i don't like the racial profiling. it must include. but i understand the frustration in arizona. norah: joan, there's talk that the obama administration may challenge this law. but what are the political concerns? >> well, it's politically tricky. but the president came out very early and said he doesn't like it. eric holder, his attorney general, also said that they're looking very seriously into the legal grounds to challenge it. so i think they're going to go forward on that front. even though it's politically tough given what we're seeing in the polls but legally they feel they have grounds to go after it. norah: katty, will the
president push immigration reform any time before 2012? >> certainly won't do it before the mid-term elections. i don't think there is very much appetite in the white house to do this. gout more of a chance after the mid terms. norah: pete. >> yes. >> joan. >> yes. zphr andrew. >> yes. norah: when we come back, scoops and predictions right out of the notebooks of these top reporters. tell me something i don't know. be right back. -sure.s for coming back out. i think you might have hooked it up wrong, though. yea, we're getting way too many channels.
no, no. that's -- that's standard. fios also comes with 11,000 free movies and shows on demand per month. ah, standard. gotcha. a certain somebody says "thank you." tell him "he's welcome," but it's still standard. he's happy to be back with his friends. is he? [ male announcer ] call now and get fios tv, internet, and phone for just $99.99 a month guaranteed for two years! this is beyond cable. this is fios. call the verizon center for customers with disabilities at 800-974-6006 tty/v. this is beyond cable. this is fios.
♪ go ahead, get started ♪ this'll never last ♪ not with the wind in your hair like that ♪ ♪ no, no, 'cause i could never see how someone ♪ ♪ as soft and sweet as you could ever be with me ♪ [ male announcer ] low-mileage lease for qualified lessees... the cadillac cts sports sedan. visit your cadillac dealer for this attractive offer. ♪ norah: welcome back. katty, tell me something i don't know. >> after the new york bomber attempt in times square there's more pressure on pakistan to really clamp down on all the extremist groups because pakistanis haven't embraced -- clamped down on all of them. if the pakistani army moves north a sign they're on the board with the white house mission. >> elena kagan is being considered for not having judicial experience. of the 17 chief justices on the u.s. supreme court eight came to the court without any
judicial experience. norah: nice. joan. >> i just saw ruth bader ginsburg this week. she looks fabulous at age 77. she won't be leaving next year. so this means president obama will have for his first term two supreme court appointments. norah: wow. andrew. >> in britain, there are now 11 openly gay conservative members of parliament. more than the labour party. the british conservatives have embraced this issue, dealt with it and gotten past it. and inviting everybody from every walk of life to agree with them on their principles and politics. i just wish the republican party could get there, too. norah: great scoops and predictions. when we come back, the big question of the week, in this year, when many democrats will go down to defeat, will president obama's personal popularity help his party? be right back. here's to the believers.
the risk-takers. the visionaries. the entrepreneurs... who put it all on the line to build and run their own businesses. at at&t, we know something about that. our company started out in a small lab, with not much more than a dream. and today, we know it's small businesses that can create the jobs america needs. that's why at&t is investing billions to upgrade and build out our wired and wireless networks. making them faster, smarter, and more secure. connecting small businesses to markets across the country, and around the world. we invest now, because we know it will pay off... with new jobs, new growth, from a new generation, putting their belief in the future on the line. now is the time for investment and innovation.
the future is waiting. and the future has always the future is waiting. and the future has always been our business. at&t. norah: welcome back. president obama's personal popularity is still high according to new polls. and his job approval as president also is up in the last couple weeks. and that brings us to this week's big question. is barack obama's personal popularity going to help democrats in trouble this year? katty. >> it can't hurt. norah: pete. >> yes. mainly. but maybe not for some in the west. norah: joan. >> yes. and the further we are from the health care legislation the better for them, too. norah: andrew. >> no. not at all.